The Most Interesting Stories of 2020
Happy New Year!
While 2020 was one of my sparsest years of blog post production, I’m determined to improve in 2021. In that spirit, I’m keeping up my annual tradition of kicking off the year with a selection of my favorite stories from the past year. Thanks for reading and you can check out previous editions here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.
5) U.S. Energy Information Administration: U.S. renewable energy consumption surpasses coal for the first time in over 130 years
I must admit I’m not a regular reader of EIA.gov, but I was encouraged and interested when I saw this news about coal’s continued expiration. It’s certainly worth clicking through to see the charts and full methodology.
In 2019, U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review. This outcome mainly reflects the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade as well as growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. Compared with 2018, coal consumption in the United States decreased nearly 15%, and total renewable energy consumption grew by 1%.
Historically, wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States until the first hydropower plants began producing electricity in the 1880s. Coal was used in the early 1800s as fuel for steam-powered boats and trains and making steel, and it was later used to generate electricity in the 1880s. EIA’s earliest energy estimates began in 1635.
4) The New York Times: Cookie Monster Mural Puzzles Artist and Enrages Property Owner
I love a mysterious and whimsical prank so this story pushed all the right buttons for me.
The man said his name was Nate and he wanted Mr. Hawkins, a local artist, to paint an enormous Soviet-style mural of Cookie Monster — the voracious, pastry-loving “Sesame Street” creature — and three Russian words on a commercial building in Peoria, Ill.
When the job was done over Thanksgiving weekend, the man paid in full and Mr. Hawkins, 33, proudly displayed the mural on his Facebook page.
But Mr. Hawkins learned C can also be for Caper.
3) ProPublica: The Black American Amputation Epidemic
A grim and gripping investigation about the racial disparities in amputations.
TWO MAPS EXPLAIN why Fakorede has stayed in the Mississippi Delta. One shows America’s amputations from vascular disease. The second shows the enslaved population before the Civil War; he saw it at a plantation museum and was stunned by how closely they tracked. On his phone, he pulls up the images, showing doctors, or history buffs, or anyone who will listen. “Look familiar?” he asks, toggling between the maps. He watches the realization set in that amputations are a form of racial oppression, dating back to slavery.
2) The New York Times: Who Was ‘El Padrino,’ Godfather to Drug Cartel? Mexico’s Defense Chief, U.S. Says
An incredible story of corruption at the very top of government. It’s a story that continues to unfold and the latest developments are just as wild.
American law enforcement agents were listening in as Mexican cartel members chattered on a wiretap, talking about a powerful, shadowy figure known as El Padrino, or The Godfather.
Agents had been closing in on him for months, suspecting that this central figure in the drug trade was a high-ranking official in the Mexican military.
All of a sudden, one of the people under surveillance told his fellow cartel members that El Padrino happened to be on television at that very moment. The agents quickly checked to see who it was — and found it was the Mexican secretary of defense, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, according to four American officials involved in the investigation.
1) The New York Times: He Was a Stick, She Was a Leaf; Together They Made History
My absolute favorite story of the year — a well-written and entertaining write-up of an easily-missed scientific breakthrough.
Even if someone could distinguish a leaf insect from its arboreal brethren, there is an almost zero chance the insect would be in the company of its mate, let alone in flagrante delicto. Whereas the winged males flit from tree to tree, the flightless females spend their entire lives high up in the canopy, out of reach and sight, swaying in the breeze as leaves will do. “By chance, one might be blown out of a tree,” Mr. Cumming said.